By James L. Curtis and Craig B. Simonsen

A recently published study presented at a National Occupational Injury Research Symposium found that Hispanic or foreign-born construction workers were over sixty percent more likely to have fatal falls from roofs than most other workers!

The study, Fatal Falls from Roofs Among U.S. Construction Workers, was published in the Journal of Safety Research (February 2013) 44:17-24. It examined trends and patterns of fatal falls from roofs in the U.S. construction industry over an 18-year period (1992–2009), with detailed analysis for 2003–2009.

The authors of this study conclude that “prevention strategies should target high-risk worker groups”. Also, “many Hispanic or Latino construction workers lack English language abilities, which could result in not understanding proper working procedures….”

This study is consistent with OSHA’s ongoing efforts to ensure that non-English speaking employees receive safety training in a language that they understand. OSHA has also stepped up enforcement efforts related to non-English speaking employees, bringing translators to inspections and ensuring that non-English speaking employees have a voice in workplace safety.

All employers, both construction and general industry, should increase efforts to ensure the safety and health of non-English speaking employees and employees for whom English is a second language. Employers should continue to examine safety policies, procedures, and training materials. Also, having the company policies, procedures, and training materials available to employees in their first language, whether that is Spanish, Polish, or otherwise, would assist the employer in its overall OSHA compliance measures!